Honda lets first visitors see UK factory: Car production at Swindon scheduled to rise from 30,000 to 100,000 a year by 1995

THE NEW Honda factory at Swindon welcomed visitors, including the President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine, for the first time yesterday. The pounds 370m plant started production last October but in an unusual move Honda refused to allow anyone to see it for six months, writes David Bowen.

The 500 visitors, including representatives from Honda's 105 British suppliers, watched the Accord being built in clinically clean conditions. Staff and visitors had to wear hats to stop dandruff contaminating the machines. Production, which is now about 30,000 vehicles a year, should rise to 100,000 by 1995.

Nobuhiko Kawamoto, the Honda president, refused to say whether production would rise above 100,000. The factory is likely to remain much smaller than those built in Britain by Toyota and Nissan.

Honda's UK manufacturing operation is 20 per cent owned by Rover, which supplies the Accord's body panels from another factory in Swindon. The new Rover 600 is identical to the Accord under the skin and will compete directly with it.

Honda's refusal to recognise trade unions was defended by Andrew Jones, the plant manager. 'We have had no requests at all from the workforce for a union relationship,' he said. 'Our pay package would stand comparison with any other company's' This included private healthcare for all 'associates', as Honda calls its workers.

Mr Heseltine later called for stronger co-operation between the Government and industry. Addressing the Trade and Industry Select Committee, he said: 'The way forward is for the Chancellor to manage the economy in the way he is doing to provide a benign (economic) climate and secondly to create our own climate in the form of a partnership between the public and private sectors.'

(Photograph omitted)

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